Tag: lineup decisions

Jonathan Drouin

Drouin denies any ‘bad blood’ with Cooper


Jonathan Drouin denied any rift between himself and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Wednesday while speaking with the Tampa Bay Times.

“We have a good relationship, we talk a lot,” Drouin said. “There’s not bad blood towards each other. Everything’s perfect.”

The 20-year-old repeatedly stated that he communicates regularly with his head coach, maybe in part because of claims made about a week ago in the Toronto Sun:

In Round 2 of the playoffs, with Drouin clearly growing frustrated, Cooper was urged to meet with his player.

Normally, he avoids talking to or making eye contact with Drouin. Their meeting didn’t necessarily go well. Cooper told him it was a process to work his way into the Tampa lineup.

Of course, a very late scratch in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final brought more immediate attention to the situation (especially since he said he was in during a pregame interview). Drouin is doing well to avoid drama, although he admitted to Sportsnet that this is “not how he envisioned” a deep playoff run and that he’ll need to “force” Cooper to put him in the lineup.

Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final was likely Drouin’s best showing of the postseason, yet apparently the bad outweighed the good in Cooper’s eyes. More than a few observers noted a big turnover by Drouin.

His teammates noticed his energy, though.

“I think you saw that when he did get in the lineup the amount of energy (he had). Guys fed off that,” Steven Stamkos said. “He’s a guy that’s always ready if we need him. It’s pretty nice to have a guy with that much skill ready to go if need be.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to Cooper, but credit Drouin for avoiding added controversy.

Oilers’ final cuts see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stay, Gilbert Brule waived

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

It looks like 2011’s top draft pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is going to be sticking around in Edmonton.

The Oilers made their final cuts today and hitting the waiver wire are four players led by former scorer and Columbus top pick Gilbert Brule. Two seasons ago, Brule was the third leading scorer on the Oilers with 37 points including 17 goals. Last year, Brule fell on hard times playing in just 41 games and scoring just seven goals.

With Brule heading out, Nugent-Hopkins gets a shot to stick around and prove that he belongs in the NHL. The 18 year-old will have lots of young guys to play alongside in Edmonton with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle potentially starting up as his linemates. Helping make Nugent-Hopkins’ arrival an easier call to make was an ankle injury to Sam Gagner. Gagner would normally set up as the second line center, but he’s week-to-week dealing with his ailment. Youngster Anton Lander will also start the year in Edmonton.

The Oilers are also starting the season littered with injuries along their blue line as Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, and Taylor Chorney are out with different ailments. That opens the door for guys like former Rangers prospect Corey Potter and former Michigan State standout Jeff Petry to start the season in Edmonton. They’ll be counted on to hold down the fort while Smid and Whitney recover. Expect the Oilers to resemble a turnstile at times defensively.

All eyes will be on Nugent-Hopkins, however. Being a top pick comes with huge hopes and expectations. His teammate Hall was able to show what he was made of last year before getting injured in a fight and knocked out for the season. Provided that Nugent-Hopkins can learn from Hall and blend in seamlessly in Edmonton, the Oilers and their fans will have plenty of excitement to behold this year whether the team wins or not.

With most of the Flyers lineup set, who’s staying and who’s going?

Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Henrik Lundqvist

When it comes to the Flyers, you already know that guys like Jaromir Jagr, James van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Maxime Talbot are sticking around to start the season. Hell,  the first six of those guys will make up who plays on the top two scoring lines for Philly.

What about the rest, though? Jody Shelley is sitting out to start the season thanks to being Shana-banned, but the competition for other spots on the bottom two lines is tight. With Simmonds and Talbot assuming two of those starting spots in the bottom six, the race to win a job is tight. Guys like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Andreas Nodl, Blair Betts, and Zac Rinaldo are all in the mix.

Coach Peter Laviolette has his work cut out for him but Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi thinks he’s got an inside line on who has the edge to start the year in Philly. Apparently youth will lead the charge in Philadelphia.

Barring a trade, it’s likely two of the following three forwards will make the team: Schenn, Couturier and Matt Read.

This trio is interesting because Schenn has virtually been anointed the third line center job already. Couturier and Read are curious because Couturier will get nine games to show if he’s NHL ready now. If he shows rookie worries and a lack of poise, he can go back to the QMJHL and junior hockey. Read is a college free agent out of Bemidji State in Minnesota. He impressed in his run through the AHL briefly last season and has been doing the same again this year. Conceivably, if Couturier gets sent back to juniors, Read can come back from the AHL to take his spot.

Giving Couturier a shot in the kind of atmosphere surrounding the Flyers with sky high expectations means they think a lot of the kid, even more so if he stays. As for guys like Rinaldo, Betts, and Nodl you’d have to think that Betts will be the fourth line center while Nodl is essentially competing with Read. Rinaldo would be assuming Shelley’s role as an enforcer/agitator if he makes the team.

The Flyers’ forward lines look pretty simple when broken down:

van Riemsdyk – Giroux – Jagr

Hartnell – Briere – Voracek

Talbot – Schenn – Simmonds

Couturier/Rinaldo/Shelley – Betts – Nodl/Read

From this perspective, it would seem unwise to put an 18 year-old rookie on the fourth line where he’s just not going to get a lot of minutes, but then again we’re not coaching the Flyers either. It would be possible that Couturier gets to run on the third line, but having two rookies along with Simmonds would be an awful lot of fun to see work out there.

The choices aren’t going to be easy for Laviolette as he’s got some solid young talent here, but developing them into being better NHL players might take precedence here. Guys like Nodl and Betts are fine as role players and defenders and could be better served doing just that.